The Kingdom started like a house on fire and, while Roscommon came to grips with them eventually, showed the resolve required to get over the line
ALLIANZ NFL DIVISION 1
When they were good, they were very good indeed. When they had to, they dug deep.
Whatever else about those little peaks and troughs, the Kingdom found the resolve to do what needs to be done. More than anything else that’s probably the most pleasing aspect of the victory from a Kerry point of view.
After a disappointing performance last time out, we expected a response and we got it with a simply blistering opening ten minutes from the green and gold. It was the cornerstone of this victory when all’s said and done.
Then when Roscommon stuck back, Kerry’s ability to ride the punches came to the fore. This time, unlike say in Omagh, they weren’t about to let it slip, they weren’t about to leave a good start go for nought. And what a start it was too.
The Kingdom began exactly how you’d want them to. Tenacious, sharp and very evidently hungry – snapping into challenges, clever on the ball, cutting Roscommon open, if not at will, then at the very least with enough regularity to suggest it was going to be a good night for the green and gold.
An early score for Dara Moynihan, fisted over from an acute angle after the Spa man picked up some loose ball following a long-range David Clifford effort which dropped short, was followed in short order by David Clifford’s devastating finish for the opening goal.
As fine a finish as it was – low, hard, unstoppable – it wasn’t even the best part of the move, that was Tony Brosnan’s slide-rule pass to find the Footballer of the Year. It caught the Roscommon defence totally flat-footed. 1-1 to no score, four minutes played.
A further pair of points from Dónal O’Sullivan followed on five and nine minutes respectively and the Kingdom were looking like something close to their pomp. Certainly it was the most convincing ten minutes of football they’ve played this campaign thus far.
The question was, could they maintain it? Not quite. To give Roscommon their dues they recovered from those early exchanges to give as good as they got for the rest of the half starting with a pointed free from Listowel man Conor Cox on twelve minutes.
Still it wasn’t until the final ten minutes of the half that the Rossies really came into their own with three points on the spin from Ciaráin Murtagh, Diarmuid Murtagh and a fine mark from Cox (won over Jason Foley’s head).
With 31 minutes gone, the Rossies were within four, 1-6 to 0-5. Kerry, however, finished the half with a pointed free from David Clifford (following a foul on Brosnan) and, while the scintillating football of earlier on dried up at touch, they were nevertheless five points clear at the break.
Well in control at 1-7 to 0-5 you would have imagined. Two early second half scores by the Rossies, however, gave one pause for thought. The first just a minute in from Dáire Cregg and then another Conor Cox free, 1-7 to 0-7.
Then on 42 minutes the North Kerry man made it a two-score game shooting over from play following an assist by David Murray – 1-7 to 0-8. Pressure ever so slightly building on the home side.
A pair of swapped scores – Paudie Clifford with a screamer, Cox with another free – did little to ease the jitters of the home supporters, nor did a wide from a goal-scoring position by Tony Brosnan, or the dismissal on a black card of Graham O’Sullivan on 45 minutes.
How Kerry reacted to it, though, was the winning of the game. Kerry calmed things down. Took the sting out of the Roscommon revival and, as it turned out, won the ten minute period the Dromid man was on the sideline three points to one – 1-10 to 0-9 on 56 minutes.
For a time thereafter it appeared as though the Kingdom would drive for the line. A massive booming effort by David Cliford on 61 minutes sent Kerry back five clear.
The Rossies just wouldn’t lie down, however, swapping further scores – a Donie Smith free and a Killian Spillane effort from play – before very nearly crafting a goal-scoring chance on 66 minutes only for Paudie Clifford’s vigilance to snuff out the danger.
Another pair of Roscommon scores, both in injury time, both from placed balls from Cox and Smith, showed the visitors’ resolve as they sought desperately to make hay following Tadhg Morley’s late black card.
The Connacht men might even had stolen a result at the death with a long-range free dropped into the danger-zone. Kerry withstood the late barrage, deservedly so, but it was a maybe a little close for comfort.
In the end, though, none of that matters. The result is all. The points are secured and Kerry are a step closer to maintaining their Division 1 status for another year and that, we suspect, is all that Jack O’Connor ever wanted from this campaign.
With players coming back to fitness – Gavin White was simply brilliant, while Diarmuid O’Connor and Paul Geaney got their first minutes of the campaign – the Kingdom aren’t in a bad place at all.
A three point victory over Roscommon? It’ll do very nicely indeed.
KERRY: Shane Ryan, Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan (0-1), Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, Jack Barry, Barry ‘Dan’ O’Sullivan, Dara Moynihan (0-1), Seán O’Shea (0-2, 1f, 1 ‘45), Paudie Clifford (0-1), Tony Brosnan (0-2), David Clifford (1-2, 1f), Dónal O’Sullivan ‘Down’ (0-2) Subs: Diarmuid O’Connor for D O’Sullivan, 50, Killian Spillane (0-1) for D O’Sullivan, 54, Ruairí Murphy for D Moynihan, 63, Pa Warren for G White, 63, Paul Geaney for T Brosnan, 66 Black Card: Graham O’Sullivan, 45-56, Tadhg Morley 71-full-time,
ROSCOMMON: Conor Carroll, Conor Hussey, Brian Stack, David Murray, Niall Daly, Eoin McCormack, Robbie Dolan, Tadhg O’Rourke, Dylan Ruane, Ciaráin Murtagh (0-1), Ciarán Lennon, Enda Smith, Dáire Cregg (0-1), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-2), Conor Cox (0-6, 1m, 4f) Subs: Keith Doyle for R Dolan, 24, Richard Hughes C Lennon, 47, Ben O’Carroll for D Murtagh, 47, Donie Smith (0-2f) for C Murtagh, 59, Cian McKeon for D Ruane, 63
REFEREE: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary)